Monday, April 22, 2013

Hit In The Face Yet Again...

It was a simple Saturday outing to the library...I had nothing left on the bedside table to read and wanted a good two-hours browsing at my regional...I'm especially fond of history, poetry, biography and the odd novel. I love to wander the aisles looking for DVDs or catching up on favourite magazines or newspapers.

After checking out eight items, and spending a bit reading, I ventured out to meet the bus. Book propped open on my lap, I was thusly engrossed when a familiar Florida drawl assailed my ears.

It was a former land lady, someone with whom I had lived twenty-five years ago and spent many years thereafter befriending. She is 92 or so now and was among a a small group emerging from the library. She did not appear to notice me, nor did I say anything to attract her attention.

The reason? She chose to disappear from my life entirely in late 2009 when it was determined by my doctor and two physiotherapists that I should use a wheelchair. Though she was hardly the first to do so, her departure was abrupt and complete, without so much as a by-your-leave. Matters were complicated when before exiting, she made a pronouncement to me that her adult granddaughter should never marry her Jewish boyfriend because it would cause too many problems...

And, she could not cope with anymore sadness...Why, exactly, my life's transition had to be a source of sadness when it had nothing to do with her, is beyond me. By that point, however, my bullshit meter was going full force, and several steps ahead of her, I could see where this was leading.

She is a card-carrying liberal in other respects and fancies herself "enlightened."
If this bigotry passes for enlightenment, I am fortunate to be shed of this relationship. At the time, however, all I could think was how sad that people become trapped in their pre-conceived notions, whether related to disability, aging, religion or what have you.

I ceased to be a person and a friend and became a problem and one with which she "could not cope." This situation is not at all uncommon for those with disabilities, particularly wheelchair users. From my conversations with other wheelchair users, apparently the wheelchair is a symbol of ultimate disablement in the minds of many.

While having my chair has changed how I get around, having it enables me to continue getting out and doing things, a fact lost on otherwise perceptive individuals. I also live in and maintain my own flat. I do use a cleaner once a month and enlist the help of a cabbie once a week to get groceries. Other than that, I'm on my own. My extended family lives elsewhere and while I am cordial to them, we are not close. I do have very good friends here and though social and community-minded, I also value my privacy and I'm not one to demand attention or "rescue" from the vicissitudes of life.

From my perspective, life is a great leveler. I am confronting issues and situations that many hope never touch them. Life changes with age and time and though I am a mere 53, I hope to have many more productive years and friends who value my gifts and presence in their lives. That said, there is much work to be done to shift ignorance regarding persons with disabilities. I am a person first, not a problem to be sorted or someone whose lot in life should be pitied.

And, yet, there I sat on an overcast Saturday, hit in the face again with the view that somehow I was so much of problem for someone that my presence could not be tolerated. I and millions more like me are here to stay. Our numbers are growing daily and may someday include you, dear reader. If I do nothing else until the day I drop, I hope that somehow my presence will shed some light on antiquated and hurtful notions, dispelling them completely.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

From The Terrifying To The Moronic...

Since reading of the Boston bombings earlier this week, I've felt out of sorts...Almost as if I am in slow motion. I had a friend in that city whose life will be forever changed, thanks to these events and while I am not free to disclose the particular details, we had a heartfelt if somewhat teary conversation on Tuesday.

Words are inadequate to express the sense of futility I feel regarding humankind and our attachment to extremes in idea, attitude and action. Why Boston? Why the marathon? Why runners and onlookers who as of this writing presumably have no connection to those responsible for this senseless atrocity?

No reason or ideal will ever be enough to justify these acts of violence, whether they be in Boston, New York, or any other world city. That said, however, U.S. national legislators have let the citizenry down yet again by failing to pass a measure that would have tightened background checks for those wanting handguns. I suppose the U.S. is now to be the largest and most gun-toting nation where any extremist, anyone who is mentally unstable, can obtain weapons, shoot up campuses or primary schools and leave Congresspersons such as Ms. Giffords of Arizona shot in the head during a public appearance.

It seems those in charge have learned nothing from these and other more recent and tragic examples. This is a country where children die for their parents rights to bear arms. It is a country in which so-called leaders are more concerned with their own re-elections and party agendas than with the desires and well-being of those whom they purport to represent.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Scaring Third Year Med Students...

On Thursday, at the request of my doc, I participated in an exam for third year med students. It wasn't the traditional pen and paper variety, but one in which each student interviewed a patient alleging shoulder patient who was also a wheelchair user. The point was to get the students thinking about patients with disabilities and how such a situation would impact a wheelchair user and the patient's concern about the possibility of becoming further disabled. Additionally, students were expected to include this "patient" in any course of treatment and to come up with a plan that would work for the patient. Students were not supposed to simply suggest a power chair and leave it at that, particularly given the expense, the hoops one must go through regarding insurance and the fact that, for some people, a power chair will not fit in their existing homes.

Many of the students had never before confronted such a scenario and it was quite interesting to observe the differences in their responses. I spent about five hours with them and my doctor, who was observing each encounter. Afterward, she critiqued each student as did I. The experience was eye-opening for the students as well as for me. There were two stand outs among these students. They were enthusiastic, but considered in their responses and came up with ideas the others did not. This training gives me hope for at least some of the future docs in this world. It also points out how much the average doctor does not know about patients and our everyday lives. I give my doctor, her colleagues and these students a lot of credit for endeavoring to learn, ask tough questions and create greater awareness regarding her patients with disabilities.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Weekend And Other Thoughts...

The weekend got off to a great start on Friday as I made my way across town in the rain for a concert given by my former Cantor and her accompanist, a talented, classically trained pianist who is also a librarian.

The concert, which lasted just over an hour, featured works from women composers from the late Middle Ages through the present. Held at the Friday Morning Musicale, a 1920's style music club with its own auditorium, kitchen and meeting/dining room that is part of the Woman's Club,  it was largely attended by Women's Club members with a scattering of friends from other places. You can see and find out more about the Musicale here:

My former Cantor has a rich mezzo soprano voice and an extensive background in music. Prior to her career in the cantorial world, she worked in entertainment and as a child, appeared in a well known film. She is also a gifted teacher, having provided her former choir members, including myself, many hours of vocal exercise, explanations of prayers and histories behind pieces of music or the events surrounding them. All of these things helped make me a better singer as well as making the many hours of choir rehearsals worthwhile. She is also one of the nicest women I've ever met.

As for the concert, each piece was accompanied by the composer's biographical information and a brief history of her works and the piece played or sung. Beyond the social and economic restrictions placed upon women, some of these composers faced obstacles related to race or disability.

I enjoy supporting events such as this both because they add to my own enrichment while contributing to music education at the community level, something important that is often not accorded sufficient attention or resources.

Saturday found me at the small Reform temple in my neighbourhood for services and a discussion of the congregation's Shiva resources for those mourning the loss of a loved one. I am still finding my way in this new congregation, but every time I go to a service or any other event, I am impressed with how active they are and the friendliness of the place.

Brunch with friends Sunday morning was lovely, both for catching up and saying goodbye.  While one of my friends from this bunch is beginning life in a new city with a new partner, something I am happy about on her behalf, I will hopefully see her once more before her departure in a month's time. The others I may see now and then, a change from our weekly contact since I now attend services elsewhere.

Yesterday afternoon I visited a friend's nonagenarian parents, one of whom is terminally ill and receiving hospice services. Despite the circumstances, we had lively conversation and a wonderful time. Both have become very special to me. When I asked my friend whether his mother would live to see her seventieth wedding anniversary in June, he admitted that this is not likely and his mother acknowledged that she feels different and has been sleeping more in the last week. This news brought me up short, but I also marvel at the differences among families. My friend and his siblings and other relations truly appear to understand the value of spending time together and time with their parents. They can speak openly about their mother's dying, something my own mother and her family members did not face well at all.

I remember all too well the conversations I spent begging my mother for permission to speak with her physicians when I suspected she might be dying and having to resort to speaking with her closest friends behind her back. By the time she was convinced to write a letter authorizing the doctors to speak with me, her death was only days away, something that took me and her doctors by surprise but which was probably in retrospect,  better than lingering or dying in a modern hospital.

Small mercies...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Rainy Day...

So much for best laid plans...

Camera in good working order and at the ready, my excursion to take photos was cancelled by rain. I simply had no desire to be out in it. As you can see here, it is nasty and growing more so.

Instead, I've gone through the kitchen looking for bits of this and that out of which to make an early supper. Several emergency vehicles, sirens blaring, have passed by today, something that always gives me pause. I wonder about those involved and whether they will survive whatever particular emergency has occurred. Many live alone these days and in cities and suburbs, people have become strangers, even when they are neighbours.

I suppose I'm lucky in that my most immediate neighbour and I have known each other since the first day I moved into this condominium. She is now quite elderly and has lived with balance and other impairments for many years. She is also quiet and dislikes being the center of attention. During my last stint in grad school, I would sometimes take her out for a meal or a bit of fun.

One Sunday, with such plans pre-arranged, I arrived to collect her only to be told through the closed front door that she was unwell. As I walked back to my own flat, a strange feeling came over me and I returned quickly to her door, inquiring whether it was possible that she open up. The response was that the door handle was too high and beyond her reach.

I grabbed my mobile and called her son for his spare key, then went looking for the upstairs neighbour who was a fireman and paramedic. Both her son and our neighbour responded quickly. She was taken to a hospital, re-hydrated and then sent to a rehabilitation facility for a short stay. At some point, it was determined that my neighbour had fallen and been on the floor near her door for 20 hours. Had I not gone back when I did, I'm not sure there would have been a positive outcome.

Should the day come when I face an emergency of my own, I hope there will be someone there for me.